Establishment of a National Heritage Commission1544 25 Jan, 2013
Ms. Ally: Mr. Speaker, Hon. Members of this House, I rise, first of all, to second this motion moved by Hon. Member Brigadier (Ret’d) David Granger, leader of the majority in this House, and in so doing I wish to form that we of the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) believe strongly that the time has come when we should establish a National Heritage Commemorative Commission and I trust, Sir, that there will be unanimity for the passage of this motion, even though the Hon. Member Gail Teixeira made those very comments about having a golden opportunity to reach unanimity.
I want to say that this motion is not a motion that is contentious nor is it one which can be classified as vexatious. A notice for this motion was given more than ten days before today’s sitting and, of course, we recognise that this is a national issue and of national importance. Hence, I believe that since this motion was put on the Order Paper, maybe, there should have been some interaction between the Government and the Opposition in order to discuss this matter, so that if there were changes and if there were amendments that the Government wanted to propose we could have discussed then but, after Minister’s Anthony letter, today there is this firm thing about deferral, even though Minister Anthony proposed two amendments which the Hon. Leader of the majority concurred with.
In no less a document than the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, it refers to our diverse culture which is something that enriches our society. It must be appreciated that our Guyanese society has a configuration of people from China, India, Africa, from the indigenous communities and this ultimately gave birth to the various ethnic groups, cultural identity and our heritage…
In Guyana, the absence or low-key reflection of some aspects of Government stands as testimony as in the case of the absence of a national youth policy. Culture is defined in so many ways. Some say it is a way of life for a group of people; some say it is something with distinctive features of society; some say it carries information and ideas about life and living… [Mr. Ali: I want to know what you say.] I say put back the four Billion dollars… shared customs, traditions and memories from parents to children. Whatever definition we use it boils down to how we value inheritance and what we do thereafter with the various inputs.
As I said before, Guyana enjoys people with diverse cultures, identity and we recognise this in no mean way. We also have a country made up of more than one ethnic group hence we must appreciate the contents of this motion before us. Guyana is not a country in isolation with diverse cultures. Many countries across the world enjoys this same status and have given due recognition to this fact. This is so important that we must treat all of the inhabitants equally and give due recognition to the contributions they make to the Guyanese society. We must have a oneness of approach hence our call for a National Heritage Commission.
If I may remind this House that our first President was of Chinese decent; our first Executive President, founder of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the man who took us to independence, Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, has African ancestry, our religious configuration emanates from India and so we must be able to bring together these various cultures, teachings, inheritance for a better Guyana.
We must understand the philosophy of our various peoples. We must have an understanding and know the significance of heritage buildings, structures, lands, the preservation of ancestry lands, landmarks and other sites among others. We must be able to formulate policies on heritage matters for approval by this Commission. We must be able to prepare and maintain an inventory of our heritage properties and we must be able to promote public awareness of the heritage resources.
This Commission must be able to draw from the various contributions, the various cultures to examine the existing structures and to promote the work of our people in an equal, significant and fulsome way. The food we eat, our religious belief and our other forms of way of life must be recognised as a Guyanese thing with due recognition that we have drawn from various peoples. Our culture, our heritage, is too important to be treated in a piecemeal fashion and here I refer to examples, referred to by the Hon. Leader of the majority where he referred to April, 1997 when our indigenous people protested in front of the National Assembly. Sir, you will recall that in 1997 the Timehri International Airport’s name was changed and to this, our Amerindian brothers and sisters considered it to be an affront to their dignity.
Mr. Granger, Sir, also spoke of the response of our African Guyanese to the erection of a monument at a site where they did not approve. He also made reference to amending the Public Holidays Act to accommodate Arrival Day for a particular ethnic group. Arrivals are important. The late Mr. Arthur Chung, the late Mr. Forbes Burnham, the late Dr. Cheddi Jagan, Ms. Teixeira, Mrs. Deborah Backer and Dr. George Norton, they represent arrivals of various groupings and that is why we want to have this National Heritage Commission. We will be able to treat with our culture, our identity, our heritage as a Guyanese nation.
Sir, in 1972, UNESCO created the World Cultural and National Heritage Commission and since then many countries, including Australia, India, Netherlands, South Africa, the City of Kamloops, only to name a few, followed and vied to get their national heritage sites on the world’s heritage list. We must not be any different. It certainly Sir, will bring the cultures of our various people in sync with a National Trust.
Let us put our country on an elevated platform. The Natural Trust must be given a place of national significance, having regard for our cultural and racial diversity. We must resolve to strengthen our unity by eliminating every form of discrimination, something which Mr. Irfaan Ali likes to keep close to his heart - “discrimination”.
This National Heritage Commission is vital, Sir, so that all Guyanese can be proud of what we inherited - our cultures, our identity, our landmarks, among other things.
I urge you Comrades to rethink your position to support this motion and make our nation a truly integrative one, one that can bear the fruit of flourishing of the various cultures in our society.
I thank you. [Applause]
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